Well, it has been officially one week since I arrived in Milan! I already can’t believe it—it has gone by so fast yet everyone and everything here feels so familiar as if I’ve been here for months!
Throughout my first week, I’ve kept extremely busy, but my mind has been flooded with ideas for different blog posts, so rest assured, I will have plenty more coming very soon! As for now, I think it’d be really helpful for both me and anyone else reading my posts if I recapped and reflected on each week of my study abroad experience. I think I’ll set up these kind of posts with a summary of each day of that week and then a reflection on my experiences and self-discoveries from the week.
So, without further ado, here is the first post of my Weekly Reflection Series: “Study Abroad Week 1!”
Tuesday, 8/31/21: I officially arrived in Milan! All of my travels went smoothly (see my blog post on Traveling to Milan In The Midst of a Pandemic for more detail) and I was able to take about a 30 minute taxi straight from the MXP airport in Milan to my residence for the next 3+ months: Collegio di Milano! At the Collegio, I didn’t even have time to unpack since I was busy filling out some forms and going through some meetings with IES Abroad staff who ran through some ground rules and tips for the Collegio with all 25 of us IES Abroad students (the other 75 or so are in other locations throughout the city). The staff also gave us a brief neighborhood walking tour and showed us how to use the Metro! Later, IES Abroad organized a great dinner for all of us including fine Italian Apertivos where we could enjoy some great food as well as meet all of the students and staff in the program! Afterwards, a few girls from the Collegio and I walked around the Duomo area and grabbed some gelato before heading back for bed as we started to get extremelyyy jet lagged! But we did meet some really nice Italian students when we returned back to the Collegio and we all chatted with them for a bit before going to bed.
Wednesday, 9/1/21: Welp, today I had a rude awakening from our IES Abroad staff member at Collegio banging on my door to wake me up. I overslept! Jet lag will do that to ya. I told him to go on and bring the group without me, then quickly changed and within another 15 minutes was out the door to our first orientation session. The session was supposed to start at 10:30am but I got there around 11am… whoops! There was a bright side, though, because I was able to take the Metro by myself and felt really comfortable doing so! After the first session, we took a break and met up with our Italian classes and respective professors, who then took us out to lunch nearby. We then had our second orientation session followed by an optional guided walking tour of the area. Some friends and I ended up doing some shopping and stopping by for some coffee at the Starbucks Reserve! Later, we all went out to explore the nightlife scene at Navigli.
Thursday, 9/2/21: Today was the first day of our Italian intensive classes! A couple people in my class live with me at the Collegio, so we all took the metro to class together and (after taking the wrong train by accident) finally arrived to class about 15 minutes late at the BEAUTIFUL IES Abroad Center in downtown Milan! After class, I took a walk by myself around the area near the IES Abroad Center, enjoyed a nice panini, and journaled a little. I then picked up an Italian SIM card for my phone and then spent some down time back at Collegio where I finished unpacking/decorating my room and made some calls to my parents. Then later, I went out to a nice Italian dinner in the city with friends. On the way home, we were even able to see an opera singer performing in the street and it was so beautiful!
Friday, 9/3/21: I official feel like a real Milanese! It’s only been a few days and I already feel so comfortable with everyone here and the city of Milan—it’s an amazing feeling that I can’t quite put into words. Today consisted of our 2.5 hour Italian class, followed by some much needed downtime. I ate dinner at the Collegio then a bunch of us IES Abroad students at the Collegio went out at night with a bunch of Italian students there who showed us some of the best spots to grab some drinks even with such a large group of us! We did turn in a little early for a Friday, though, because the next day we knew we had to wake up early for…
Saturday, 9/4/21: Lake Maggiore! This was a phenomenal trip organized by IES Abroad that paid for our train to the Lake and back to Milan, multiple private boat tours around the islands, and tickets to touring the gardens at Isola Bella and a palace at one of the other islands. My friends and I had so much taking beautiful photos of the scenery as well as each-other and just seeing the amazing sites! We enjoyed a nice pizza lunch on one of the islands and then some gelato before finally heading back to Milan where we continued hanging out for the night.
Sunday, 9/5/21: Today was definitely a relaxation day! I slept in, then at noon a friend and I went to get some coffee, avocado toast, and crepes at an amazing café down the street from the IES Abroad Center. We then visited the Duomo area and shopped and took some photos for about 4 hours! I spent the rest of the afternoon and night lounging around Collegio catching up on some Italian homework and chores.
Monday, 9/6/21: Today was the 20th birthday of one of the friend’s I made here in Milan!! After Italian class, I lounged around the Collegio for a bit (finally got a VPN on my computer so I ended up watching some of my favorite American shows that I was having difficulty watching in Italy)! Then, about seven of us we went out to a really nice dinner to celebrate my friend’s birthday. At dinner, we enjoyed some wine, gin cocktails, and I had amazing beef carpaccio. We then went out to a really cool club for the night before heading back!
So, that was my first week abroad! I had so much spending the week in Milan and really learning the ins-and-outs of the city. I even learned a lot about myself in just this one week, including that I’m more confident and good at making friends than I give myself credit for. I also realized I’m very good at change and can adapt quickly to changing situations and environments. Maybe it was just because Milan is a pretty modern city for Italy, or maybe because I stayed pretty busy this first week, but I never really experienced that instant of panick or “culture shock” when you realize you’re actually gonna be in an entirely foreign place with strangers for the next four months. Many of my friends studying abroad in others places this semester experiences this sensation and said it was really alarming, but it didn’t happen for me.
I’m honestly so proud of how strong and independent I’ve been here, and incredibly impressed with myself that I was able to come to this foreign place all alone (knowing no one my program and having this be my first time EVER in Europe). I also can’t believe how easy it was to make friends and how welcoming and friendly everyone was here! I already feel so comfortable with the people I’ve met here and would consider us all very close already.
However, I also learned this first week that sometimes I’m TOO independent of a person and get tired of so much socializing quickly. While I’m very extroverted and love being around people, this week was really socially draining as much as it was fun, so I definitely appreciate the alone time I gave myself here and there. Whether it was just walking around the city by myself (safely and during the daytime of course) or simply lounging around my bedroom and watching some TV or doing a face mask, taking time for yourself and enjoying your own company is incredibly important! The key is to find a good balance for yourself between being social with others and taking time to be alone.
Another thing I learned about myself is that I am much more fluent in Spanish than I ever thought I was (even though I did minor it). Taking Italian right now is making me realize how every word that comes up I immediately want to translate right into Spanish (which I’ve been surprisingly doing with ease!), but this unfortunately makes learning the Italian a bit harder because I’m so stuck on how things are said in Spanish. Hopefully this gets easier with more practice and classes!
So, first week down, plenty more amazing ones to go! I can’t wait to see what comes next and to keep you all updated along the way :)
P.S. - Please enjoy some photos below of my first week! :)
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<p>I'm Tori and I'm from North Bennington, Vermont USA. I'm currently a third-year student at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts studying Finance with minors in Spanish and Information Design and Corporate Communication. At Bentley, I'm treasurer of the Ski and Snowboard Club, Scholarship Chair of Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority, and a member of the Women's Leadership Program, Bentley Literary Society, and Habitat for Humanity. After graduating Bentley I hope to work in corporate finance or investor relations for a few years before eventually following my life-long passion of starting my own fashion brand! I'm therefore so excited to study abroad with IES Abroad in Milan through their Business Studies and Internship program because I'll not only be able to grow as an individual, meet so many new people, and experience an entirely new culture/see new places, but I'll also be able to have hands-on experience in this huge financial district and fashion capital of the world! In my free time I love to alpine ski, read & write, explore new restaurants and visit Boston, have fun with friends, and of course, shop!</p>